Below is the start of a primer on the California Coastal Commission and the Fire Pits.
The City of San Diego has been told, in writing, that they need a Coastal Development Permit to remove the fire pits.
This should be no surprise. The cities of Newport Beach and Huntington Beach were recently told the same thing by a different offices of the commission. Furthermore, the city could face penalties of up to $6,000 per day if they remove the fire pits without a permit.
Why does the city need a permit? Many reasons. I will be updating this page with many references over the next few days, but here are the basics:
Section 30213 of the California Coastal Act states, in part: Lower cost visitor and recreational facilities shall be protected, encouraged, and, where feasible, provided.
Most, if not all, of the fire pits are in the "Original Jurisdiction" of the Coastal Commission, meaning the commission has specific authority over them and not just the ability to review permits on appeal. For example, ALL of Mission Bay Park "remains an area of deferred certification, with the Coastal Commission retaining coastal development permit authority."
So is this "Development"? Yes. First, the city is proposing removal of over 350,000 pounds of concrete structures that were public amenities. Just removing them would require a permit for the activity. Separately, since they are a protected public amenity, the action would have to be reviewed relative to its effect on beach access.
So will getting the permit be easy? Definitely not. For one, the fire rings are listed as a free public amenity in the Mission Bay Park Master Plan. This plan has been certified by Coastal Commission as the Local Coastal Program and would be used as a reference to review any permits.
Who gave the Coastal Commission their authority? The Voters did to protect the beaches and beach access for future generations.